New Benefits Added to Citi Platinum Select AA Visa Card, Better Deals Still Out There
June 1, 2012

Citibank just launched a new Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa Signature card with a 30,000 mile sign-up bonus and a new set of American Airlines specific perks. However, Citi is also currently offering, though not advertising, 50,000 mile bonuses for the older versions of the same card. Additionally you can apply for both a personal Visa and Amex card on the same day, netting 100,000 AA miles and a single credit inquiry. The 50,000 mile cards are not my links, but more info can be found on this useful Flyertalk thread. A certain amount of trust will be needed since the application pages don’t specifically outline the bonus offer, but most people who have applied are reporting success on that thread.

I got in on the same deal when the bonuses were 75,000 miles a card and many other readers reported the same success judging by the 330 comments on that post. I personally don’t want to be responsible for promoting those links because Citi will eventually pull that offer, so you’ll have to do your own research, but I couldn’t discuss the new AA card offer without letting you know that a potentially better deal exists.

Update: It looks like all current Citi Platinum Select Visa holders will get these new benefits (though not the sign-up bonus if you already have the card)

New Card Details:
-30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after $1,000 in purchases in first 3 months.
-First checked bag is free for you and up to four travel companions
-Priority Boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases
-Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount every year when you spend $30,000
-Double AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases
-Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back  up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles each calendar year
-No mileage cap and your miles may never expire
-No annual fee for the first year, and $95 thereafter

Is this deal worth it?
It really depends on how much value your mails and how much you will take advantage of the card perks. How I view this offer:
1) I personally value AA miles at around 1.8 cents a piece because I use them for longhaul business and first class travel on Oneworld partners like Cathay Pacific (whose First Class I just flew from Hong Kong and is amazing). AA miles can also be redeemed for off-peak saver awards, like 40,000 miles to Europe roundtrip in coach or 135,000 miles in First Class to Asia on Oneworld partners. The 30,000 miles is worth at least $540 to me because I would easily pay $2,430 for a roundtrip first class Cathay Pacific ticket to Asia.
2) The 10,000 point yearly rebate on awards is another $180.
3) AA and Citi also offer reduced priced awards for Citi AA cardholders – like 17,500 mile economy and 42,500 first class roundtrip awards to select rotating cities. I haven’t taken advantage of these, but this could easily be a 7,500 mile value since I redeem for first class so I’ll divide it in half to be conservative and say it could be worth 3,750 miles or $67.50.
4) If you can spend $30,000, you get a $100 statement credit: $100
5) I don’t pay for checked bags as an Executive Platinum, but if you don’t have elite status that saves you $25 per bag, up to 4 people per reservation.
6) Priority boarding makes snagging overhead bin space easier and takes a little bit of stress out of the boarding process.

All in all, the new benefits are decent and put the card in line with the Delta Gold Amex, United Explorer Visa, and US Airways Mastercard. Whether this card is worth it for you all depends on your travel habits and how much money you could potentially save having this card in your wallet.

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Overview: Canadian American Express Membership Rewards Program
May 30, 2012

Back in February, I wrote about the “Best Canadian Credit Cards for Miles and Points, which prompted a few readers to ask me what exactly the differences are between American Express’ Membership Rewards program in the US and that in Canada, so I thought I’d take a look.

You can find out all about the US program by having a look at my presentation from last year’s Chicago Seminars.

For now, let’s have a look at the ins and outs of the Canadian program and do a quick comparison concerning the travel partners and transfer potential of Canadian Membership Rewards points.

There are some very big differences when it comes to redemptions, including the number of partners, and the transfer ratios.

Airline and Hotel Partners

Airlines:
Air Canada, 1,000 points: 1,000 miles
Alitalia: 1,000 points: 750 miles
British Airways: 1,000 points: 1,000 Avios
Asia Miles: 1,000 points: 750 miles
Delta: 1,000 points: 750 miles

The US program has additional partners of Aeromexico, ANA, El Al, Frontier, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic, though not Asia Miles, and the transfer ratios are usually 1:1 rather than 1:0.75.

Hotels:
Priority Club: 1,000 points: 800 Priority Club Points
Hilton HHonors: 1,000 points: 1,000 HHonors
Starwood Preferred Guest: 1,000 points: 500 Starpoints

The US program has additional partners of Best Western Rewards, Choice Privilege and Jumeirah. The other two differences to point out are that the transfer ratio to Priority Club is 1:1, to HHonors is 1:1.5 and that the transfer ratio to Starwood is actually worse in the US at just 3:1 rather than 2:1, so Canada has the US beat there.

The key difference is that the US program runs frequent transfer bonuses, while the Canadian one does not. This is a huge downside to the Canadian program, including the dismal 1:.75 transfer ratios.

Amex Travel

Much like the US program, Canadians can also just use their points at a set value of one cent apiece to pay for travel. In the US it’s called Pay With Points, while in Canada it’s just done by booking through Amex Travel. Canadians can also pay with points via the TripFlex feature where they can book travel with their carrier, agent or entity of choice and pay with their Amex card then request a statement credit. The ratio is at 1 cent per point as well.

Other Redemptions

Canadian Membership Rewards members can also use their points to pay for vouchers at restaurants, theme parks, movie theaters, and various other stores selling electronics, home & garden, business and home office equipment, clothing and other outlets, though the ratio is often well below one cent per point, so in general these are not good options for pulling a lot of value out of your points—same as in the US!

Current Bonuses
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the sign-up bonuses tend to be smaller than here in the US, so our neighbors to the north are usually out of luck on that account, plus you don’t get the same lucrative spending categories that you do in the US (3x airfare and 2x gas and grocery on the personal and 2x gas and shipping on the business card).

While Canadians generally get offered lower sign-up bonuses than in the US, right now you can get the Business Gold Rewards card with 25,000 points after $3,000 in spend within 3 months. The $180 annual fee is waived the first year. The personal Gold card has a 15,000 points after $500 in spend within 3 months with the $150 annual fee also waived for the first year.

Since the Canadian Membership Rewards program has less than stellar transfer ratios to airlines, it might make the most sense to get the Canadian Starwood American Express since those points transfer at a 25% bonus to over 30 airline partners including Aeroplan, American, Delta, and US Airways.

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65,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles Credit Card Bonus Bank of America Amex
May 28, 2012

Virgin Atlantic launched a new bonus offer on their Bank of America American Express card with the potential to net new cardholders 65,000 bonus Flying Club miles (application link) when they meet certain spend requirements). This beats the usual 50,000-mile bonus for getting this card–the extra 15,000 miles from the anniversary bonus when you meet the spending requirements.

20,000 bonus miles after your first purchase
25,000 additional bonus miles after you spend at least $2,500 in qualifying purchases in the first 90 days
15,000 Anniversary bonus miles after qualifying purchases–you get 7,500 miles by spending $15,000 within the year, and 7,500 more if you hit a threshold of $25,000 in spend.
5,000 bonus miles when adding two additional Cardmembers
1.5 miles for every $1 spent on purchases
3 miles per $1 spent directly with Virgin Atlantic
Tier points that help you ascend to or maintain Silver or Gold status (note: you can only earn two Tier points per month)
$90 annual fee, not waived
•1% foreign transaction fee

Virgin has plenty of airline partners to use these miles on, including its latest partner, Virgin America, as well as Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, BMI, Gulf Air, Jet Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, SAS, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, US Airways and V Australia.

Remember, you can also transfer Virgin Atlantic miles to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, so that 65,000-mile bonus equates to 130,000 Hilton HHonors points—enough to spend three nights at a Category 6 property like the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, or two nights at certain Waldorf Astoria properties like the Trianon Palace Versailles and the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund.

Not too shabby, even with the $90 annual fee, especially if you know you might have a lot of spending coming up and want to consolidate it on one card to score those extra 15,000 anniversary miles. Plus, for those of you who, like me, might be a little heavy on the Chase credit card applications lately and need to wait a while before your next application, this might be a good option to score a decent bonus in the meantime since it’s a Bank of America card.

Posted in American Express, Bank of America, Credit Cards, Virgin Atlantic Leave a comment

Best Cash Back Cards For Students
May 25, 2012

Graduation season will be here soon, and a lot of  readers are young people just getting started with credit, so I thought I’d have a contributor named Mark, himself a recent college grad, write about the best cash back cards for college students looking to build their credit. As you’ll see, there are plenty out there with a lot of great features for credit newbies.

Back in 2007 when I was still in high school, I saw a powerful documentary called “Maxed Out” about the dangers of easy credit. I think it should be required viewing for any young person starting out with credit, and though it was meant to scare us about the dangers of playing fast and loose with your credit, I viewed it as a practical learning tool.

Here are a couple of other things I learned as I was building up my own credit as a college student, as well as a few of the best cards out there for young people to start with.

Cosigners
One easy way for students to build their credit responsibly is for their parents to cosign on a card with their children.  This strategy is great for many reasons.  For one, that card could be a miles-earning card and get you that much closer to a great spring break trip.  Secondly, the parents on the card can put a spending limit on it so their kids don’t (in fact, they can’t) go wild at the mall.  Building credit this way worked for me, as it taught me how to spend responsibly in a safe way.

Some parents might not want to run the risk of damaging their good credit scores if their children make a few mistakes (who can blame them?). So I’ve picked out four good cards are catered to young people. Now, neither of these earns miles or points, but they are cash back cards. Sure, you might not get those sexy trip awards, but think about this as a sensible first step in building to those better cards. When banks see you can handle a lower limit card, when you do decide to apply for a points-earning credit card, you can get a great one that will send you around the world and back!

Student Credit Cards

1. The Citi Dividend Platinum Select Credit Card for Students:
This card is a great start for students.  It is specifically designed for them to build credit up for themselves in a responsible way.
Pros
-No Annual Fee, which means it may end up being cheaper than a debit card with the way fees are being charged these days.
-0% APR for 7 months, and then up to 20.99% after that.  This is great if you have a large purchase you know you can pay off within the 7 months, because it’s interest-free.
-5% cash back for the first 6 months at supermarkets, gas stations, drug stores, and utilities, and then 1% every month thereafter.  Since food, gas, beer and electricity made up about 95% of my expenses as a college student, this is a great bonus.
-2% anytime cash back on student purchases like entertainment and restaurants, which covers the other 5% of my everyday purchases.

Cons
-No points earned on purchases.
-APR can be increased to up to 20.99% at 7 months, which is bad if you have a balance at the end of the 7-month grace period.

2. Discover Student Card
This card wins the “coolest look” award in the yearbook.  Its cassette-tape retro look will definitely get noticed, but what college students will love is its generous cash back terms and friendly customer service from Discover.
Pros
-Retro-cool design looks like a tape cassette (what are those?) Definitely the card for a BMOC.
-0% APR for 9 months, which again is great for larger purchase you know you can pay off.
-5% cashback rotating calendar.  This is great because the categories rotate quarterly. For this past year, January to March was gas and entertainment, April-June is restaurants and movies, May is restaurants, July-September is gas and “summer fun” (movies and theme parks), and October-December is Holiday shopping.
-Up to 20% cash-back through the Discover shopping mall, with retailers like Best Buy, Nordstrom, and Apple.
-Great student-friendly customer service including raising limits or dealing with bill-related issues.

Cons
-No points earned on purchases, but with the generous cash-back you may not miss them.
-Up to 18.99% APR at the end of the 9-month trial period, which won’t matter if you are a good spender and don’t go over your budget.

3. Journey Student Rewards Card by Capital One
Check out this card if you know you can spend within your limits and not have a balance at the end of each month.
Pros
-1% cash back on every purchase, which takes the guesswork out of what you can earn back on your card.  While it’s not high, it is something!
-No Annual Fee
-25% additional cash back on all cash back you receive if you pay your bill on time.  If you spend $400 a month, you’ll be earning back an extra dollar!  This is great because it’s a positive reinforcement for paying your bills on time.

Cons
-No miles earned on the card
-High 19.8% APR no matter what, so no grace period like the above cards.

For those who don’t want a credit card, but want to learn using money responsibly, American Express offers the Pass Card which is a prepaid spending card parents can reload with their child’s allowances each month, and is designed for teenagers.  No credit is earned, but it teaches younger children about credit and how to spend wisely.
Pros
-Teaches valuable spending lessons to a younger population, which will make them more responsible spenders in the future
-Preloaded with money deposited by parents, so no overdraft fees associated with ATM cards
-Accepted everywhere American Express is accepted.

Cons
-No credit earned. The point of the card is to teach about spending within a set limit, not about credit.
-$2 ATM fee after the first withdrawal each month, which is not free like most ATM cards from the major banks.
-Must reload card if more money is needed.

Like I said, these aren’t the lucrative points-earning cards that TravelCreditCards normally covers, but they are some of the best options out there for college students just starting out to begin building their credit while still earning some valuable cash back before transitioning into points-earning cards.

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Meeting Business Credit Card Spending Requirements
May 23, 2012

Reader Kevin asks:

“I recently applied for an American Express small business credit card and I have to reach the $10,000 minimum spend in several months. I’ve read your post on clever ways to reach the minimum spend bonus, but I’m unclear on if the strategy differs on personal or small business cards. If I’m the sole propitiator for a business, are there certain personal spends I can’t make? This is my first business card, so I’m worried groceries/smaller personal purchases would prompt a Fraud Report from Amex.”

As you see in the video, there’s no need to be nervous. It’s true, you don’t want to trigger a financial investigation from Amex, but a business card is basically the same thing as a personal card, and it doesn’t matter what expenses you put on it. Obviously don’t to anything shady, and for your own accounting purposes, you might want to keep your business and personal expenses separate, but from the perspective of meeting minimum spending requirements Amex doesn’t care.

For instance, I got the Amex Business Gold card for business earlier this year and had to hit $10,000 for the full point bonus, so I put some personal expenses on it to do so, and for my own accounting, I just made sure to notate that it was a personal expense. But there is no problem putting these expenses on your card. If you play by the rules and don’t put anything shady on the card–Amex will even let you buy Amex gift cards and count these purchases toward your minimum spending requirement–you should have no problems.

If you need more minimum spend ideas, check out this post.

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What Credit Score You Need To Be Approved For Points Cards
May 21, 2012

A reader named Ben asks:

“What is the minimum credit score needed to get approved for all these reward cards? What is the lowest credit score you have heard of getting approval for a premium Chase product like the Sapphire?”

There is no one magic score that will automatically get you approved for any credit card. Credit card companies will take into account a lot of different factors in addition to your 3-digit score when determining an approval:
1) The ratio of your amount of debt to available credit
2) Your relationship with that bank (do you already have a bunch of open credit with them)?
3) Any past judgments/collections/bankruptcies

Granted, these things are all factors that go into your score, but since the credit crisis especially, credit card companies aren’t just trusting a number to predict someone’s full creditworthiness. So even if you have an 800 FICO score (850 is the highest), you still may get denied for having too many recent credit cards. At the same time, someone with a 690 may apply and get approved if they don’t have many cards and their low score is a result of lack of history. It all really depends.

However, my honest unofficial thought based on tons of reader emails I’ve received over the years is: you really don’t need a super-high credit score to get rewards cards – even the “premium” cards like Sapphire Preferred and Amex Platinum. I have had readers with past credit blemishes and upper 600 credit scores get approved for premium cards – often after convincing a reconsideration line representative that they are indeed creditworthy and just made a couple bad mistakes in the past. In general 700 is probably sufficient for most cards, though 730+ should put you in the “very likely to get approved” category.

That being said, if you are in debt and can’t manage your finances appropriately I do not recommend applying for any new credit cards -  even if the rewards seem worth it. Focus on paying down your credit because the APR you pay on any balances can easily negate the value of any points/miles you receive. Credit scores are used for a lot more than just credit card approvals – they will be a major factor in determining how much interest you pay on a mortgage and even be considered in your insurance premiums. Not only that, but many employers run credit checks so achieving and maintaining a strong credit score should be your ultimate goal and luckily you can do that and get rewards cards at the same time if you pay all of your bills and carry a low amount of revolving credit.

If you have a lack of credit history, getting new cards and paying them off on time and in full will actually help increase your credit score. If you don’t feel that your score is high enough for a premium card, start with a basic card like the Chase Freedom or American Express Blue Sky card- neither have annual fees and you’ll be creating a good relationship with the two biggest card issuers. With Freedom and Amex cards enrolled in Membership Rewards Express – once you build your credit score and relationship with the credit card company and you can get approved for the Sapphire Preferred and Amex Premier Rewards Gold cards, the points in the “lite” points programs can be transferred into the more valuable Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards points – which can then be transferred to airline and hotel partners.

To sum it up, the only source that will tell you if your score is good enough to get a credit card are the credit card companies themselves. With the economy improving they have definitely loosened up a little bit and are getting very aggressive at recruiting new customers who will be lifelong profitable customers.

Feel free to share your experience getting cards- especially if you have a lower credit score or one with past blemishes. Clearly everyone’s situation is unique, but sharing experiences can help those on the sidelines determine whether it makes sense to apply or not.

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Points Bonuses Through Shopping Portals
May 18, 2012

TPG reader Jean-Marc asks:

I have a question regarding shopping through a portal. Before any online purchase, I usually go to evreward.com to see where I can get the most bonus points. For the sake of this example, let’s say it’s the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall. When I click on the link, I get asked to login to my Chase account, then pick a credit card (I have the Sapphire Preferred and Freedom). Let’s say I pick the Sapphire Preferred, when I check out, can I pay with another credit card (my SPG Amex), and still get the bonus points through the mall, but get the base point for the spend on the Amex?

Great question – let me take it back a couple steps for the beginners.

If you shop a lot online, you should be raking in the points and miles by maximizing shopping portals. The general rule of thumb with these portals is that as long as you click the link and make a purchase, with any credit card, you will get the points/miles. Why do these portals exist? Well usually they are run by third party e-commerce websites that act as a middle man. The retailers pay the portals, say 7%, of your total purchase, for sending business their way. In turn, the portals incentivize you to spend more by offering miles and points that they purchase from the airline for less than what they are getting paid by the retailer. In an ideal world everyone wins: the retailer gets more business, the shopping portal makes money for basically doing nothing, the airlines make money from the portals on the miles (that they hope never get redeemed) and the savvy shopper rakes in miles when those poor souls who actually shop in the store get the shaft on the bonus opportunity.

The great thing is that you can pretty much use any credit card – you don’t have to use an airline or credit card-affiliated product. For example, say you want to buy a $100 item from Target and you want to maximize the miles you get, but you’d really like to top up American Airlines if it’s the best. I’d first go to EVreward.com and compare how many points/miles each portal is offering.
I’d generally prefer accruing Chase/Amex points because they are transferable to a number of different partners, but neither partners with American and the earning ratio is the same, so I’d go directly through the AAdvantageeshopping.com portal for this purchase. Now, you don’t have to use an AA-affiliated credit card, so you could use your United Club credit card which offers a lucrative 1.5 miles spent on every purchase. In the end you’d end up with 300 American miles from the portal (deposited usually within two weeks of purchase) and 150 United miles from the credit card spend.

As Jean-Marc writes, it gets a little trickier with the credit card shopping portals, because they try to make it seem like you need to use their credit cards to get the points, however you don’t. In order to accrue points in Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards you need to have an eligible card (like Amex Premier Rewards Gold or Chase Sapphire Preferred), but you don’t have to use that card through the portal. Once you click through, a cookie gets placed on your computer that tells the system to award you X amount of points for your purchase. Usually the cookie lasts for at least 30 days, so even if you forget to click through the portal on a future visit, it’s very likely you will still get the bonus (though I always recommend clicking through to be safe). The systems are not sophisticated enough to cross-reference the type of credit card used to actually make the purchase.

Chase Ultimate Rewards portal saying you need to use a Chase card.. not true, but they'd like you to think that

Additionally, many portals will exclude the purchase of gift cards from accruing points/miles, however the systems often do not detect gift cards and you will still get the bonus. On top of that, sometimes you can even then use those gift cards after clicking through the portal and potentially earn miles on purchases paid for by those gift cards – a classic double dip.

Note, it doesn’t always work out as planned and there are variations between vendors and portals on what works and doesn’t, so I’d recommend starting off small and see what works before you try to go big time.

FYI for those with the new Ink Bold card which offers 5 points per dollar on office supplies, the Frequent Miler blog has some really unique ways to maximize that via gift card purchases through shopping portals. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Greg, the brains behind Frequent Miler, and I’m really impressed with his creativity in the spend/gift card/portal space. I’ve even added him to my blogroll, so check him out!

In the meantime, here’s a list of popular shopping portals:

Air Canada: Aeroplan EStore
AirTran: A+ Rewards Mall
American: AAdvantageEshopping.com
American Express: Bonus Points Mall
Amtrak: Amtrak Guest Rewards
British Airways: BA Miles Estore
Chase: Ultimate Rewards Shopping
Choice Rewards: Choice Privileges Mall
Citi: Thank You Shopping
Delta: Skymilesshopping.com
Discover: ShopDiscover
Frontier: Early Returns Mall
Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines eMarket
Hilton HHonors: Hilton HHonors Earnings Mall
Marriott Rewards: Shop My Way
Mastercard: Mastercard Marketplace
Priority Club: Priority Club Shopping
Southwest: Rapid Rewards Shopping
United: Mileageplusshopping.com
US Airways: Dividend Miles Shopping Mall
Visa: Visa Offers (these are discounts not points-earning)

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Ink Bold Benefit: Free Lounge Passes
May 16, 2012

I have several Chase Ink Bold business charge cards and I love them because not only do they provide big sign-up bonuses (50,000 valuable Ultimate Rewards points), but they have great benefits, like 5 points per dollar spent on wireless/telecommunications services, cable and satellite television and radio services, office supply stores and wholesale distributors of office supplies.

However, one of the benefits that I never noticed, but TPG reader Grant recently brought to my attention, is free membership in The Lounge Club program, which includes two free lounge visits a year. The Lounge Club is very similar to Priority Pass and after a little research, I found out that they are owned by the same company. The only difference that I found was that Priority Pass has 650 participating clubs vs. 350 with The Lounge Club since United clubs are only a part of Priority Pass. I bet they created this new brand to be able to market the service to different cardholders, since American Express Platinum already offers Priority Pass access.

You can’t normally sign-up for The Lounge Club, so you need an invite landing page, which is www.loungeclub.com/inkcard.
Enter promo code CHASEINK in the box in the top left.

You will see a confirmation on the enrollment page indicating the free membership and two free entries a year. You’ll then have to sign up and include credit card information so they can charge you if you use the membership for more than two visits. It doesn’t specifically state you need to use your Ink Bold card, but it did only provide Visa/MasterCard options, so they will probably crosscheck to make sure you actually have an Ink Bold card.

Upon enrollment, you and your guest can enjoy access to all participating lounges in the LOUNGE CLUB™ network worldwide. After your first two complimentary visits to participating lounges, a fee of just US$27 per person, per visit will be charged for yourself and any accompanying guest(s).

JFK locations include Oasis and Korean Airlines lounge

I checked the directory and one of my favorite airport lounges for plane watching, The Oasis Lounge at JFK, is included which is nice because it is before security at JFK, so you don’t need a boarding pass to enter. Click here to browse the full list of lounges.

Overall, I think this is a great benefit on top of a card that’s already loaded with value – especially since the reasonable $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

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Debunking Chase Credit Card Application Myths
May 14, 2012

There’s no beating around the bush that Chase is the king of credit card offers at the moment. They are investing heavily to get market share in the credit card marketplace and in order to get new customers, they are offering extremely generous sign-up bonuses. But for the past couple years there have been a lot of rumors floating around about the rules of Chase applications, including:

1) You can only get one card every 6 months
2) You can only get one card every month
3) You can’t get two cards in one day
4) You can’t get a sign-up bonus twice for two cards in the same family

I debunked #1 a long time ago, but never personally tested 2,3 and 4 up until recently. On March 6 I was approved for the Hyatt Visa and on April 4th a 60,000 point Ink Bold offer comes out (which is now dead, by the way), which was the best I had ever seen for that card so I decided to apply. I already have an “old” Ink Bold that I got back in November before they rolled out the new card with the 5x spend categories,which include office supply stores, cable and wireless service, and landline communications. Even though it wasn’t a full month since my last approval, I decided to pull the trigger.

I had also been eying the Freedom card, which also has rotating 5x spend categories and since I am also a Chase checking customer, I’d get a 10% bonus and 10 points per transaction. And since I have the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards, those Freedom points, which normally can only be used as cash-back, can be transferred to the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners (United, British Airways, Southwest, Korean, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club and Amtrak). So I decided to apply for the Freedom on the same day as the Ink Bold and I got “pending decision” notices for both applications, which wasn’t surprising. I decided to give it a couple days and then call my pals at the Chase credit reconsideration lines at 1-888-245-0625 (personal cards) and 1-800-453-9719 (business cards).

While I have had great success with the Chase reconsideration line, I don’t particularly like calling them. The reps are always friendly, but I do sometimes get the feeling they are judging me for my mildly ridiculous credit card application habits. Okay, well they definitely are judging me because that’s their job, but I still don’t enjoy it.

Anyway, I decided to start with the Freedom card, because I legitimately have a second business and thus I felt my argument was stronger to get approved for the Ink Bold. Upon calling, I was asked why I needed the Freedom card and I stated that I was a fan of rewards (understatement of the century) and I wanted to take advantage of the 5x spend categories and I would move spend from other card issuers if I got this card. That seemed sufficient for the rep and she put me on hold for two minutes. When she came back she asked if I would be comfortable moving around my credit line from other cards. I currently have a $30,000 line on my British Airways Visa which comes in handy as I finish up the $30,000 in spend to get the super valuable Companion Ticket, but I was more than comfortable taking $10,000 from it and putting that towards the Freedom card. The rep liked that idea and approved me on the spot for the Freedom card. Score.

Next up was the business reconsideration line and they were friendly as well. While business credit cards sit on your business credit line (they don’t show up on personal credit reports), they do pull your personal credit score when determining your creditworthiness. Business credit cards are secured by your personal line of credit, so if you fail to pay they will come after you personally. The rep asked me about my recent applications and why I needed so much credit with Chase. I simply explained that I am a small business owner and like to maximize my rewards and went through each card and why it makes sense to me. They actually seemed impressed with my knowledge and saw that I paid my bills in advance every month in full and that I am also a Chase personal and business checking and auto loan customer. I put a significant amount of spend on Chase cards, so I’m pretty comfortable asking Chase for some favors (approvals) since I give them a lot of my business. And lo and behold I got approved for my second Ink Bold card- another 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points in the bank!

So now I feel complete: I will be raking in the points left and right with my lineup of cards:
Freedom: 5x spend categories, which are currently grocery stores and movie theaters. I’ll also use this for every day purchases to get the 10% and 10 point bonus. Current bonus: 10,000 points.
Sapphire Preferred: 2x travel and dining. Current bonus: 40,000 points
New Ink Bold: 5x points on office supply stores, cable and wireless service, and landline communications. Current bonus: 50,000 points.
Old Ink Bold: 20% bonus plus bonuses at $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000 in spend
British Airways: 1.25 miles on all spend, plus a Travel Together ticket at $30,000. Current bonus: Up to 100,000 Avios.
Hyatt: 3 Hyatt points per dollar spent at Hyatt. Free category 1-4 night per year, which more than pays for the $75 annual fee. Current sign-up bonus: 2 free nights (in a suite for Diamond members and 2 suite upgrade certificates for Platinum members).

Bottom line: There are no formal rules towards applying for credit with Chase. The only thing you should worry about is maintaining a strong credit score and not running huge balances on your cards. Yes, your credit score will get dinged 2-5 points per hard inquiry, but if you are paying off your accounts in full and on time your score will rebound and possibly even increase. To me, the sign-up bonuses and spend category bonuses are well worth it, though you should consider what the best cards are for your needs and put together a sustainable application strategy.

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10 Best Travel Credit Cards
May 11, 2012

1. Starwood American Express: This is one of the best points-earning cards out there, especially because Starpoints can be so valuable thanks to great redemption options including Cash & Points at the over 1,000 Starwood properties all over the world. Members can also transfer your points into miles on over 30 different airlines at 1:1 ratio, including Aeroplan, American, Alaska, ANA, American, Asia Miles, British Airways, Delta, Flying Blue, Emirates, Hawaiian, Singapore, US Airways and Virgin Atlantic, along with a 25% bonus for very 20,000 points you transfer, essentially a 25% bonus if you plan your transfers correctly. Just having this card gets you 2 stays’/5 nights’ credit towards elite status, and you earn at least 2 points per dollar on spend at Starwood. The $65 annual fee is waived the first year, though there are foreign transaction fees. Current sign-up bonus is 25,000 points.

2. British Airways Visa: In addition to the current bonus of 100,000 Avios (50,000 with first purchase, 25,000 after you spend $10,000 within a year of account opening and 25,000 more when you spend an additional $10,000 within a year of account opening), this card has several other features that make it a great one for travelers including: no foreign transaction fees, SmartChip technology making it easier to make purchases abroad, super valuable companion tickets with $30,000 in spend and the fact that you earn 1.25 Avios per dollar spent rather than just 1 (and 2.5 on British Airways purchases). Major downside? Big fees on most award tickets to Europe and Australia, though huge value can be had through other redemptions.

Use your 100,000 Avios on British Airways flights for upgrades (and its partners for awards with lower fees).

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred: The current sign-up bonus is down to 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points, this still has to be one of my all-time favorite credit cards for a few reasons: the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, there are no foreign transaction fees, you earn 2x points on dining and travel (which includes all kinds of various expenses), a 7% annual dividend on all the points you earn including the sign-up bonus, and a growing roster of transfer partners including United (Star Alliance), British Airways (Oneworld), Korean Air (SkyTeam), Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club (Intercontinental, Holiday Inn) and Amtrak.

4. American Express Premier Rewards Gold: In my opinion this is the best Amex card. It gives 3 points per dollar on airfare (4x if booked through Amex travel), 2 on gas and groceries and 1 on everything else. There are foreign transaction fees, so I never use it abroad or for purchases from foreign companies. You also get 15,000 bonus points for spending $30,000 per calendar year. I like my Amex points because Amex runs transfer bonuses, like the current 50% to British Airways.

Venture Rewards let you use your points for travel anytime anywhere.

5. Capital One Venture: While the 100,000-point sign-up bonus is gone for now and it’s down to a paltry 10,000 points, this is still a very solid card for consumers who don’t care about redeeming for premium rewards, but prefer the flexibility to book any flight, hotel or cruise anytime (and still earn elite status on those bookings), or to use the 2 points per dollar spent to take a small chunk out of their statement payments (it’s essentially 2% back when you redeem for travel). The card’s $59 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

6. United MileagePlus Explorer: Though the public offer for this card is just 40,000 MileagePlus miles, people have reporting up to 65,000 point sign-up bonuses when you log-in to your united.com account. In addition to the bonus miles, which I value highly, this card comes with perks for United flyers who might not have elite status, such as a free checked bag for the cardholder and one companion, priority check-in, screening and boarding, 2 passes to the United VIP Club every year of cardmembership, and 2 miles per $1 spent on United.

Use your two free nights with the Chase Hyatt Visa at any Hyatt in the world, including the luxurious Park Hyatt Paris Vendome.

7. Chase Hyatt Visa: This one gives new cardmembers 2 free nights in any Hyatt property in the world, including those luxury Park Hyatts I love, just for signing up and making a purchase, no minimum spend required. In addition, Platinum members of Gold Passport  who get this card get 2 suite upgrade certificates which can be used on paid stays and Diamond members get their two free nights in a suite. Every year thereafter, cardmembers get a free night in a Category 1-4 hotel, which makes up for the $75 annual fee. It also doesn’t carry foreign transaction fees and has SmartChip technology, making it a good choice for spending money abroad.

8. American Express Mercedes-Benz Platinum: 50,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first three months. 50,000 Membership Rewards points alone are worth over $1,000 to me, which makes the $475 annual fee palatable, and this card comes with the same perks as the Platinum Amex, such as $200 a year in airline rebates (including gift cards), free Global Entry/Nexus, Starwood Gold status, car rental benefits and elite status and a bunch of other benefits. Plus, you get access to American, Delta, US Airways and Priority Pass Select lounges. It also has Mercedes benefits such as a $1,000 credit toward the future purchase or lease of a Mercedes-Benz, up to 2,000 excess miles waived at the end of a lease, $100 toward MB merchandise, and 5x points on Mercedes-Benz purchases.

In addition to valuable Mercedes-related perks, this card carries quite a few member benefits including lounge access and airline rebates.

9. Citi ThankYou Premier: 50,000 point bonus after spending $2,500 within 3 months–no annual fee for the first year. While these points cannot be transferred to hotels or airlines, they can be used to book airfare at 1.33 cents a point, so getting this card will mean you can get $665 in airfare. The great thing about tickets booked with ThankYou points is that they accrue miles and elite status. $665 for a single credit inquiry? Not too shabby!

10. Bank of America Alaska Visa: Though the sign-up bonus is just 25,000 Mileage Plan miles, you can actually churn (get the bonus multiple times) this card fairly easily, racking up those miles again and again to use on Alaska’s vast slate of partners including both American and Delta. Members earn 3 miles per dollar spent on Alaska, and an annual Companion ticket and the potential for some very lucrative miles bonuses on purchased fares. It does carry a $75 annual fee.

Posted in American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Credit Cards Leave a comment